If only visitors to Haiti could get to the waterfalls at Cascade Pichon, said Dean Nelson in The New York Times. Dubbed one of the country’s greatest tourist attractions by former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the stunning falls are fed by an underground lake and burst from a verdant mountain face “like so many faucets stuck in the open position.” But Duvalier probably reached the site by helicopter, because even four decades later, the land journey from Port-au-Prince remains a “tire-shredding, neck-snapping” seven-hour drive across gravel, flood plain, and dry riverbed. That said, you won’t regret the detour if you take it.
I discovered the falls while reporting on community rebuilding projects in Haiti. Four years after a devastating earthquake, the nation is still recovering from the devastation and subsequent cholera outbreak. But you can see why some officials want to start positioning the country as an eco-tourism destination. Two hours from Cascade Pichon, which is tucked into the southeast corner of the island nation, the small coastal city of Belle Anse makes a promising jumping-off point. The town of 51,000 is full of young, educated, and energetic people, and yet it “embodies the contradictions you find in Haiti. The natural beauty of the beaches stops you dead in your tracks. So does the poverty.”
The final climb to Cascade Pichon looked impassable for our SUV, but we “fishtailed and swerved and hopped our way to the top,” blasting past a soccer field and a small church on the way. The falls and the lake below were so spectacular that I didn’t need much from the only lodging nearby—the one-story Hotel Deruisseau, located on a mesa across from the cascading water. Meals were served about 50 feet from the building in a community gathering area under a metal roof. The hotel had no hot water or private showers, and offered no electricity after 10 p.m. But none of that mattered. “As I lay in bed, all I could hear was the falls—the greatest white noise ever.”
Haitian hotels and tour packages can be found at haititourisminc.com.